Trying to calm fearful Americans weeks from a pivotal election, President Barack Obama on Wednesday promised a "much more aggressive" federal government response to Ebola, including health care SWAT teams to help inexperienced local hospitals cope with any new case on U.S. soil.
Obama spoke after a hastily arranged meeting with top aides steering the government response to the deadly disease, called to review mistakes that led to a second health care worker in Dallas contracting Ebola.
“What we’ve been doing here today is reviewing exactly what we know about what’s happened in Dallas and how we’re going to make sure that something like this is not repeated,” he said, underlining that the government needed to be “monitoring, supervising, overseeing in a much more aggressive way” any new cases.
“What I’ve directed the CDC to do is that as soon as somebody is diagnosed with Ebola, we want a rapid response team — a SWAT team, essentially — from the CDC to be on the ground as quickly as possible, hopefully within 24 hours,” Obama said.
The team's task will be to take the local hospital “step by step through exactly what needs to be done and making sure that all the protocols are properly observed, that the use of protective equipment is done effectively, the disposal of that protective equipment is done properly.”
Obama, who scrapped a rare campaign trip to help Democrats in New Jersey and Connecticut in order to hold the meeting at the White House, highlighted the importance of following strict CDC protocols for dealing with the disease by recalling his recent visit to Emory University in Georgia, where two Americans with Ebola were recently cared for.
“I want to use myself as an example, just so that people have a sense of the science here. I shook hands with, hugged and kissed, not the doctors, but a couple of the nurses at Emory, because of the valiant work that they did in treating one of the patients,” he said. “They followed the protocols, they knew what they were doing, and I felt perfectly safe doing so.”
If those who come into contact with Ebola patients follow established procedures, he said, "then the likelihood of a widespread Ebola outbreak in this country are (sic) very, very low."